Seattle’s own Donald Byrd, the Tony Award nominated/Bessie Award winning choreographer and artistic director of Spectrum Dance Theatre is one of six artists to be named as a Doris Duke Artist for 2019. He joins playwrights Lauren Yee and Marcus Gardley; musicians Terri Lyne Carrington and George Lewis and fellow choreographer Michelle Ellsworth for this year’s honors.
Donald Byrd’s body of work has placed an emphasis on relaying stories about civil rights and issues important to all communities especially African-American and LGBTQ. His works include the award winning 2017 piece (IM)Pulse which combined the work of queer writer/activist David Wojnarowicz with a dance piece echoing the horrific violence of the Orlando Pulse Massacre and 2016’s A Rap on Race where Byrd himself portrayed gay writer James Baldwin.
Congratulations to Donald Byrd on this honor.
More from the press release.
On behalf of the Board of Directors and staff of Spectrum Dance Theater, we are thrilled to celebrate Artistic Director Donald Byrd being named a 2019 Doris Duke Artist Awardee.The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation created The Doris Duke Artist Awards to invest in exemplary individual artists in contemporary dance, jazz, theater and related interdisciplinary work who have demonstrated their artistic vitality and commitment to their field.Interested parties can read more about the award and the winners at: www.dorisdukeartistawards.org
This prestigious recognition of Donald Byrd’s body of work in the world of dance is well overdue. His 17 years of leadership at Spectrum Dance Theater only scratches the surface of his many contributions and achievements. Donald’s artistry and mastery of storytelling have earned him several awards and honors over the course of his lifetime. This list includes, but is not limited to, a TONY Award nomination, a Bessie Award, a Masters of Choreography Award from the Kennedy Center, a United States Artists fellowship, and the Mayor’s Arts Award in Seattle.“Donald Byrd is a vital ingredient for what makes Seattle a world-class city! He has brought the world to us in ways that challenge our concepts about humanity, politics, belonging, existing and co-existing in this world,” said longtime Spectrum Supporter Vivian Phillips. “He’s a brilliant man of African descent whose connection to the world is vital. His creativity is a constant font that always flows from reality. His deep thinking about how the world works and how it can work better presents through his intriguing choreography and his citizenship. His art is his activism. Donald’s courage and resilience are the lasting gifts he shares that enrich our lives, our community, and our world.”Josh LaBelle, Interim Board President of Spectrum Dance Theater, spoke of Donald’s value to Spectrum and the community at-large, “Donald Byrd is an inspiring & provocative artist that all of us at Spectrum are so proud. We are so honored that Donald continues to call Seattle and Spectrum Dance Theatre his home. It’s high time all of us recognize the extraordinary value Donald brings to the contemporary dance sector and this Seattle arts community.”Please join us in congratulating Donald Byrd on this incredible honor!About the Doris Duke Artist AwardsThe award is not a lifetime achievement award. Instead, it is a deep investment in the potential of dedicated artists, empowering them through the freedom of unrestricted support to take creative risks, explore new ideas and pay for important professional and personal needs not typically funded by project-related grants. The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation aims to empower Doris Duke Artists through the freedom of unrestricted support to take creative risks, explore new ideas, and pay for important professional and personal needs not typically funded by the project-related grants that dominate arts funding. While the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation initially conceived the Doris Duke Artists Awards as part of a larger $50 million special initiative that finished in 2017, recognition of the program’s importance in helping artists thrive spurred the foundation to cement a place for the flexible awards in its core strategy to support the arts. With the 2019 class, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation will have awarded nearly $31.3 million to 114 noteworthy artists through the Doris Duke Artist Awards since May 2012.About Spectrum Dance TheaterUnder Donald Byrd’s artistic leadership since 2002, Spectrum Dance Theater has become the foremost contemporary modern dance organization in the Pacific Northwest, gaining recognition nationally and abroad. For over thirty years, Spectrum Dance Theater has brought dance of the highest merit to a diverse community working to make dance accessible to all through contemporary dance performances and high-quality dance training in a variety of dance styles. Three components comprise the organization: the professional Company, the School and Outreach programs. With Donald Byrd’s visionary artistic leadership, the organization has embarked on an exhilarating transformation that has attracted world-class dancers, produced some of the most avant-garde works in contemporary dance, and generated local and national praise. www.spectrumdance.org